C magazine

Ready to trade

Jesse Klebe, left, and Jessica Fleck, right with professor William Wilson in the Commodity Trading Room

Jan 07, 2019

Technology has a big impact on learning. The relationship is obvious in the spacious, monitor-filled classroom at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Colorful stock information and commodity prices scroll around the Commodity Trading Room as students use market activity and historical data to make simulated grain trades.

“I liked the energy of the classes and immediacy of learning,” says Jessica Fleck, who graduated from NDSU in May 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural economics and crop and weed science. She is now an NDSU applied economics graduate student.

“I enjoyed the commodity trading and risk analysis classes so much that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in commodity trading,” says Fleck, who grew up on a ranch near Mandan, N.D.

“Students love technology and quickly become proficient with the trading program and accessing information from Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, DTN ProphetX and other outlets,” says William Wilson, NDSU distinguished professor of agribusiness and applied economics. He helped develop the room and trading and risk management curriculum.

Computer trade simulations are not all fun and games, Wilson says. After finishing trading exercises, students are given one minute to defend their decisions. “It improves their communications skills and they learn whether they like the fast-paced, high-pressure trading environment.”

Class sessions start with lectures on elements of commodity trading, global markets or risk management. Large screens bring in guest speakers from around the globe through videoconferencing.

The dynamics of the Commodity Trading Room have attracted a broader range of students. Enrollment has doubled and changed from nearly all men to an even mix of men and women.


Hands-on Experience

Former student Jesse Klebe interned in grain procurement and merchandising at CHS Midwest Cooperative in Onida, S.D. He credits classes in the Commodity Trading Room with providing practical experience.

“I had a good understanding of trading basics and technical aspects, so I could function well a few weeks into the internship.”


Qualified workers infographic 


Matt Morog, grain merchandising manager for CHS Midwest Cooperative, agrees. “Jesse started out with a good level of technical knowledge. Working at the cooperative gave him a glimpse of what happens when the market goes against technicals,” Morog says. “We were able to teach him about logistics of moving grain, such as calculating how many trains of grain we need to sell.”

Klebe, a Bottineau, N.D., native, received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from NDSU in May and is now an NDSU graduate student who plans a career in commodity trading and risk management.


Real-world Input

The connection between classroom and real-world trading is no coincidence, says Rick Dusek, executive vice president, CHS Country Operations, and an NDSU alum. He credits Wilson with seeking industry input on how to improve grain marketing curricula to prepare students for the ag workplace.


Women in ag infographic 


“We told him students need to learn how to analyze data and make decisions quickly. They need hands-on experience using real-time scenarios.”

CHS was one of several companies making donations for the trading room, and the CHS Foundation awarded a $2.5 million grant to NDSU to create the CHS Chair in Risk Management and Trading.

“Students pursuing careers in commodities trading or risk management will benefit from tailored curriculum,” says Dusek, “and agribusinesses will benefit from a pipeline of qualified employees.”

See more: Watch a video at chsinc.com/c.

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.